India

India's Kingfisher airline staff withdraw strike call

Kingfisher counter
Image caption Kingfisher has never made a profit since it was launched in 2005

Workers at India's Kingfisher Airlines have called off a planned strike after an assurance from the management that their dues will be paid by 10 April.

The employees had threatened to go on strike if they were not paid by 20:00 [15:30GMT] on Tuesday.

The workers had a meeting with Kingfisher Chairman and Managing Director Vijay Mallya on Monday night.

Reports said Mr Mallya warned them that any agitation could lead to the cancellation of the airline's permit.

On Monday, Kingfisher announced it would resume paying its staff beginning this week after tax authorities unfroze its bank accounts.

Mr Mallya said all junior staff would be paid by Wednesday and engineers and pilots would be paid early next week.

But the employees threatened to go on strike unless they were paid by Tuesday evening.

The cash-strapped airline's bank accounts were frozen in February for non-payment of taxes.

The airline has cancelled dozens of flights recently due to the cash crunch.

It recently suspended all international operations and cut down on local routes.

Warning

"The employees accepted the assurance Mr Mallya had given in his letter and decided that they would not go ahead with their ultimatum of an agitation if a part of their dues were not paid by 8pm today [Tuesday]," Press Trust of India quoted unnamed airline officials as saying.

It said that after a day-long meeting between the employees and the management on Monday, "Mr Mallya made a last-ditch effort and met the agitators at his residence late Monday night".

He is reported to have warned them that any agitation could lead to a cancellation of Kingfisher's flying permit by the aviation regulator DGCA [Directorate General of Civil Aviation] if its services were disrupted any further, PTI reported.

On Monday, Mr Mallya wrote in a letter to Kingfisher employees that the bank accounts were unfrozen on Sunday after the airline paid a total of 640m rupees ($12.6m) to tax authorities.

"My only focus now is to start paying your seriously overdue salaries," he wrote.

"All junior staff will be paid before Easter, that is, on Wednesday 4 April. All pilots and engineers will be paid on Monday 9 April and Tuesday 10 April," the letter said.

The staff have not been paid salaries since December.

Kingfisher has been struggling to maintain its day-to-day operations after banks refused to lend more to the debt-laden carrier.

It owes money to airports, tax authorities, lenders and its own staff.

Last month, the airline was suspended by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) from using its clearing house.

The airline has never made a profit since it was launched in 2005.

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